Grace to you!
At the far west side of St. Peter’s Basilica is an enormous, beautiful gilded bronze monument designed by the Italian sculptor Bernini. It’s called Cathedra Petri, meaning the chair of Saint Peter. Not merely a work of art, the chair stands out as a resounding testimony of the voice of Catholic Christian leadership. When the Pope speaks ex-cathedra (referring to this seat of authority), he is proclaiming that which is doctrinally binding.
You have Cathedral churches in your area, don't you? You know why they are called Cathedral. It isn't because of their impressive or massive designs. Instead, it is because of the chair of the bishop inside the building. That chair is what is technically called the Cathedral. Let's return to St. Peter's Cathedral story.
Saint Peter was chosen and commissioned by the Lord to be the leader of his Church. We read about this unique commissioning from several texts in the Bible, such as Matthew 16:13-19, during Peter’s affirmation of the messiahship of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi. The Lord endorsed Peter’s answer as coming from the Father. He equally gave Peter the power and authority to lead his Church. The Lord equally reassured him that "the gate of hell shall not destroy the Church." Other places where the unique role of Saint Peter as the leader of the Church was shown in Scripture include Mt 18:18, Eph. 2:20; 4:4-6, Acts 2:41 (though many interpret these texts differently).
The Chair of Saint Peter, therefore, represents this office, the office of spiritual leadership, which Peter occupied. It also stands for the same office which his successors hold too, right to our present generation. Just like with countries, the office of the president is different from the current person occupying it. Presidents come and go, but the office of the president remains unless that country no longer exists.
It is similar to the Church. Christ founded his Church. It is common sense to find in that Church, the office of central leadership. Such an office leads the body of Christ in teaching, governing, and sanctifying. Wasn't this the consensus during the early years of the Church? Or do we suppose that the death of Saint Peter was the termination of the authority given to his office to lead the Church? I don’t think so.
I see in that chair, the seat of spiritual leadership through which the Christian voice could form a unity in diversity of churches, persons, and cultures.
We pray that the sacrifices of Lent will bear fruit in Christian unity. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[1 Pet 5:1-4; Mt. 16:13-19]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.